It's always fascinated me that Irvine's Larry Agran, Orange County's most liberal (and wily) politician, has enjoyed solid political support from two groups: corporate executives and cops--especially considering most folks in those two categories sit on the other end of the political spectrum. But the law enforcement alliance might finally be over. Today, the Irvine Police Association plans a protest to draw public attention to the Agran-controlled city council's "lack of good faith" in negotiating a new contract for law enforcement services.
"We are not asking for a pay raise," association president Shane Barrows said in a prepared statement. "We are simply asking to keep what we already have, get back the cuts to the police association that the majority of the city council recently took for no legitimate reason, and hold the city accountable to its own rules and regulations."
At issue, according to Barrows, is about $720,000 in cuts to officers who've helped make Irvine statistically "the safest city in America" for five consecutive years. Agran's three-member city council majority, which spends more than $45 million annually on cops, have ordered employees to give back a paid holiday, Lincoln's Birthday; frozen pay and ordered reductions in the number of officers working on holidays. These types of cuts might be necessary in other fiscally struggling cities, Barrows says, but Irvine "now sits on a $100 million budget surplus."
"We don't want our guys to feel like they aren't appreciated," Barrows told me in phone interview. "Quality officers are hard to come by. These cuts may force some of them to leave for other departments and we don't want to loose them."
Barrows also says that officers are frustrated that at the same time they are being forced to accept cuts, the city council majority has made a $775,000 donation to the Irvine Barclay Theater at UC Irvine, duplicated $1.7 million in social service spending that county officials are already tasked with handling and paid $2 million for a transportation shuttle that merges into Orange County Transportation Authority territory.
"There's lots of unessential spending going on," said Barrows.
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The association president says he expects about 100 protesters to meet at the corner of Walnut and Culver streets in Irvine from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today.
The officers also plan to picket a 6:30 p.m. Caspian Restaurant fund-raiser tonight for Councilwoman Beth Krom, a member of Agran's alliance that includes Mayor Sukhee Kang. Krom, a Democrat, is running against Congressman John Campbell next year.
Said Barrows, "We want to demonstrate to them [the city council] that we are unhappy with what is going on and we want them to revisit the contract."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly